Google+: The Resurrection

Somewhat surprising news emerged recently in the social media world. According to Global Web Index, Google+ has surpassed Twitter to become the second largest social network in the world.

Here’s how the numbers break out: Facebook still holds the top spot with 693 million active users, Google+ has 343 million actives and Twitter comes in at 288 million.

Google+ has had quite a journey over its short history. It started with a bang and millions joined in droves. Then, it went through a period of diminished use and got labeled a “ghost town.” But the site has been steadily gaining interest and traction to get to where it is today.

I’ve always liked Google+. Some have unfairly overly compared it to Facebook, and although it does have some  similarities, it’s a very different site with differing strengths and appeal. G+ users aren’t subjected to advertising. It also offers a cleaner and simpler user experience, not to mention that it’s a great site to connect and engage on a deeper level with others that have similar interests.

A couple recent innovations that I think have helped G+ dramatically include the introduction of Communities and allowing brand pages to more easily connect with consumers. Both moves allow finding and connecting with others to be a much easier and enjoyable exercise.

It’s great to see where G+ has landed. Of course, with the competitiveness of social networks, things can change in a matter of months.

Social Media Fatigue and the Desire to Engage

I’ve been seeing the term “social media fatigue” quite often lately. It’s really a curious term because social media doesn’t seem on the surface to be particularly “fatiguing.” I do certainly understand it however and believe I’ve felt this fatigue from time to time. No one likes to feel fatigued, so I think it’s important to understand why we start to feel this way, and what the remedy is.

When talking about social media fatigue, I’m referring to it primarily from the standpoint of personal use of social media. Business use of social media has different aspects to tackle when it comes to this particular topic.

Here are some important areas to address when it comes to social media fatigue:

Focus

One of the key areas that brings about social media fatigue is simply being involved in too much. Unless one can participate in social media 24/7, there are realistically only so many hours in a day to effectively devote to it. Yet, how many people feel the need to be involved in every possible platform that comes out? Time and situations vary, but for the average person one or two platforms are the limit for devoting large amounts of time. That’s not to say one can’t have a presence on other platforms, but we should realize our attention and effectiveness on those will be limited, and then lower our expectations as to our levels of engagement.

For me, Twitter is one platform I get more from and spend more time on. Google+ is another that I’m newer to but have interest in and see some potential. I spend most of my social media time on these platforms. I have Facebook and LinkedIn profiles, but don’t spend as much time at those sites. You likely won’t find me on Pinterest anytime soon. Although the platform is very hot right now and looks interesting, it is simply outside my focus.

Individualism

Nothing drains energy and brings about fatigue like having to measure up to someone else’s standards on social media. Forget about influence and Klout. Being you is a much better option and will help stave off fatigue. Resist the temptation to copy what others have done, for the most part. It’s quicker and less fatiguing to do what comes out of your personality.

Exploration

On those one or two platforms of focus, learn everything you can do with them. Try their latest and greatest features. Become a super user. That will help keep things fresh and tap into your creativity. By doing this you’ll derive new value from the platform that will help keep things interesting.

Giving

Adding value to the experience of others is a great way to avoid fatigue. Try and focus more on what you can give versus what you get. In the long-term I’ve found this much more rewarding and energizing. The learning and engagement will still be there for you, but expectations will be better aligned with your overall experience.

Participating in social media can be a very fun and rewarding experience. We certainly don’t want to allow something like fatigue to diminish our productivity in this area, or worse, let it drive us to quit altogether.

It’s your turn. Have you experienced social media fatigue? How have you countered it? Share a comment below.

Your Brand in a “Search plus Your World” Economy

In a sign that the gloves may be off between the major social networks, Google announced the launch of “Search plus Your World.” The new search feature integrates social results with “organic” search results. Although there has been much debate already about whether Google is monopolizing its dominant position in the search market, there is no debating that this is a significant development for brands. Leaders of their brands marketing, public relations or social media functions who have put off joining Google+ until the platform matures will want to reevaluate their decision and strongly consider participating now.

Search plus Your World, in addition to returning search results from a person’s larger social graph, allows search based solely on personal online connections, called “Personal Search.” To some, or perhaps many, Personal Search could become more appealing than organic results. The catch is, Google heavily favors results from Google+ (surprising right?). So, with Search plus Your World, what’s being said or shared about any brand is much more highly indexed and findable, especially when it’s shared on Google+. The implications are far-reaching.

In our Search plus You World world, how can brands leverage and protect themselves given the new search realities that must be faced? Here are six important steps that marketing leaders should take now when it comes to Google+:

Create a Google+ page and build it out as fully as possible. Using all the features including posts, brand information, photos and videos is important. A fully developed page will encourage visitors to spend increased time on it and interact with it more. If they like what they see they may “circle” the page and open the door to further communication and relationship building.

Grow the page’s community. An active page is more likely to show up in search results and has a greater likelihood of being circled. Be sure to promote your presence on Google+ in your other social and traditional marketing efforts. The platform is great for interacting with followers so it’s a good idea to do that as much as possible. Followers will appreciate the attention.

Resist the urge to aggressively market. Make the focus of your Google+ page to share content and engage. This increases the chances that people will circle the page, interact and share its content.

Consider keyword use whenever possible. Determine the words or terms that are used frequently in search in your market and integrate those whenever possible. However, the main goals for the page should still be to interact, engage and grow a community. This will lead to a more thriving page that ultimately is more successful by gaining shares and discussion with more people.

Guard brand reputation with diligence. Social media has raised the stakes for brands when it comes to reputation management. News about poor service or products can now spread quickly. Search plus Your World takes this issue to new heights. Failings of brands will not fade as quickly anymore. They can be resurfaced with a simple search. Brands will want to take this seriously and do even more to ensure that they are exceeding expectations, or at least meeting them.

Commit for the long-term. For most brands, growing an abundant community will not take place overnight. It’s important to always operate with a long-range vision and commitment backed by continuous effort and activity.

Whether we agree with it or not, search just got much more personal. What other implications of this do you see for brands?

16 Digital Marketing Insights

I recently attended “The Digital Media Roadmap: Are You Off-Roading?” sponsored by the Chicago AMA and came away with some great digital marketing insights. I hope to utilize them in my own digital marketing endeavors and wanted to share them here.

Speakers at the program were Larry Kramer, author of C-Scape: Conquer the Forces Changing Business Today; Deborah Powsner, head of Research & Marketing, B2B, Government & Local Markets, Google; and Casey Winters, director of Online and Interactive Marketing, GrubHub.

Here are some of the key points that I took away. Hopefully they will be helpful to you as well:

  1. The four C’s of digital are Consumer, Content, Curation and Convergence.
  2. The consumer is in control.
  3. Strong content trumps distribution.
  4. With the explosion of information, there is a growing need for content curation.
  5. We will continue to see a convergence of media forms. Marketing, advertising, PR will work together more.
  6. Advertisers and content companies must find more ways to collaborate.
  7. Every company will become a media company and in the content creation business.
  8. Key in the digital environment is to monitor and respond quickly.
  9. Look for ways to integrate video into your digital efforts.
  10. Seventy-eight percent of people conduct research online prior to purchase.
  11. Search query growth has increased by over 100 percent in the last three years.
  12. Find out what people are saying and searching for in your industry to leverage search growth.
  13. Get Google’s +1 button on your site. It allows people to recommend your brand to their network in searches.
  14. Take control of and respond to every customer touch point, including social media and all others.
  15. Build and interact where your customers are, not where you want them to be.
  16. Think about how to improve your timing, access and responsiveness in the digital environment.

These are some great insights to put to work in your digital program. What do you think about them? What insights would you add?

Picking Sides

It seems to be human nature to want to pick sides. I was reminded of that again this week when I noticed the Facebook versus Google+ debate heating up again. The launch of business pages on Google+ has beckoned advocates on both sides back into the ring.

I read one well reasoned and written post that predicted Google+ will be a dismal failure after one or two more years. I also read an equally well-developed post that outlined why Google+ will be a great success and a real threat to Facebook. Who’s right?

Just as interesting were the comments under each post. One person after another vehemently stating why one platform is better than the other and predicting success or failure based on their opinions.

Ultimately, nobody really knows what will happen to Facebook or Google+ in the long run. Both platforms are similar in some ways and different in others. Both have good features and benefits as well their fair share of drawbacks, whether for business or personal use.

Here’s the important question: Isn’t there room for both?

I know my answer.

To Grow Social Media at Your Business: Measure

If you’re not measuring the impact of your social media efforts, now is the time to start. Although understanding of the value of social media is increasing at the executive level in businesses around the country, continued growth in social media will be driven by the ability to demonstrate a solid return on investment. Let’s face it, every department and business function is under a microscope, especially in a down economy. Your mission is to demonstrate the value of social media in creating brand awareness and sales in your business.

Getting Started: Social Media Metrics

A great (and easy) place to begin your measurement is with metrics. Do you have a Facebook page? Track your number of fans. Twitter account? How many followers do you have? If you have a company page on LinkedIn you can also track your number of followers. If you’re on YouTube you can track the number of subscribers to your business channel.

Once you’ve established baselines for these platforms, measure how they’re doing over time. For example, did you gain more Twitter followers this quarter when compared with the same quarter last year? How about annual follower growth?

You might also track the number of visit to your website referred from social media sites via your Google or other website analytics program. Are visitors increasingly getting to your website through your social media outlets? Are they staying longer and checking out more of your product or service pages? This is very insightful and valuable data to capture.

Advanced Measurement: ROI

If you have a great handle on your social media metrics you may be ready to tackle social media return on investment. This information will be especially critical in demonstrating the importance of social media in advancing key business goals like increasing sales and lowering expenses.

When looking at ROI it’s important to be as specific as possible. Establish processes that can track sales leads back to social media. Was a sales lead closed? How much revenue did it generate? Measure the social media impact on sales over time to get a compelling picture of what these platforms mean to your business.

The other major side of ROI is cost savings. Has social reduced staffing demand in your call center? Has it lowered the cost of lead generation? Has is allowed for low-cost market research opportunities? These are all examples of positive ROI. Be sure to document these savings and ensure your senior leadership is aware of them. Commit to showing how social media impacts your business goals.

Whether it’s metrics, ROI or both, the key is to get started in social media measurement. You will likely find yourself fine tuning and perfecting your measurement program on a regular basis. Social media holds great promise for businesses of all shapes and sizes, why not start to show it?

Let’s hear what your thoughts are on social media measurement.

For more information, check out this Quora stream on ROI in social media.